President Trump touted to journalist Bob Woodward that he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “have broken every record” when it comes to judicial appointments, according to a new report.
Trump’s comments, which were part of a series of interviews with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for his new book “Rage” and obtained by the Washington Post, were made in December of last year, but were released publically just days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The president said that he will name a nominee to fill the seat vacated following the passing of Ginsburg.
As of January, Trump had appointed 187 judges to the federal slots, which makes one in every four circuit court judges a Trump appointee, and two to the Supreme Court in Justices’ Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“The only one that has a better percentage is George Washington, because he appointed 100 percent,” Trump told Woodward, according to the Washington Post. “But my percentage is, you know, like, ridiculous.”
“I’ll probably have more than 50% of the federal judges in the country,” Trump said in an audio recording Woodward released to CNN.
The president also ragged on his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for leaving more than 100 vacancies in the federal courts – calling them “golden nuggets” during an interview with Woodward in May.
Most of the vacancies on the federal bench were caused by McConnell’s efforts in the Republican-controlled Senate to block or delay Obama appointees – marking the slowest confirmation rate for judges in more than 60 years.
The most prominent move by McConnell to thwart an Obama appointee was in 2016 when he declined to act on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia in an election year.
“You know what Mitch’s biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges,” Trump told Woodward. “He will absolutely ask me, ‘Please, let’s get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors.’”
Since Ginsburg’s passing, Democrats have made a moral argument to their Republican colleagues to resist filling the seat until the next president is inaugurated, arguing that senators should follow the precedent that McConnell set in 2016.
“If Donald Trump wins the election, then the Senate should move on his selection and weigh the nominee he chooses fairly,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Sunday. “But if I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn. And as the new president I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor.”
McConnell, however, says the current situation is different because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which was not the case when a vacancy opened under Obama in 2016. Democrats say this reasoning is laughable and say the vacancy should be kept open until after the inauguration.
Democrats and advocacy groups wasted no time unearthing past statements from other GOP senators in 2016 saying the Senate must wait to confirm until after the election.
They have continually pointed to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, who backed McConnell’s move in 2016 to block Senate confirmation hearings on Garland. He told Democrats at the time to “use my words against me” if the Supreme Court vacancy should happen during an election year of a Republican president.
In recent interviews, Graham has shifted his stance much to the dismay of Democrats who still are fuming over the missed chance to get Garland on the court. Graham says the landscape has changed after the bitter confirmation hearing of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and now Republicans have control of both the White House and the Senate, unlike four years ago when there was a partisan split.
“I will support President [Trump] in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg,” Graham tweeted over the weekend.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.